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Natasa Sarcevic, who since graduating from the Belgrade Academy of Music has won several international prizes and worked with Irina Zaritskaya and Raphael Terroni in London, gave a vivid impression of Ben-Haim's radical style in the Five Pieces for Piano Op 34, highlighting its appealing melodies, radiant textures and unique amalgam of East and West.

The first piece, Pastorale, is a reworking of the first movement of the Suite No 2, the first piano work Ben-Haim composed in his new surroundings in Palestine. It weaves a delicate melodic tracery with whole tone scales over a sustained backdrop, with hints of shepherd pipes, plaintive cantillation phrases and fragmentary dance rhythms, all of which were colourfully interpreted. There was plenty of jaunty energy in the folkish Intermezzo, enriched by bare fourths and fifths, with imitations of the Oud, a middle-eastern lute, in the piano textures. Virtuosity was displayed in the swirling scales and arpeggios of the Cappriccio Agitato, with its strident themes and exciting climax, evocatively contrasted by the calmer Canzonetta, with rich Debussyesque harmonies. The thrilling Toccata with its driving momentum was riveting, coloured by strumming repeated-note effects and buoyant Yemenite dance figures.

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Copyright © 8 April 2003 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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